2017 SEMA Hall Of Fame Inductee
Of all the members of the automotive specialty-equipment industry who have influenced the growth of SEMA since the turn of the millennium, few have left a greater impression, and done so with more dedication, than outgoing SEMA Board Chairman Doug Evans. From his work on behalf of the SEMA Action Network to the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network and the SEMA Launch Pad, to name only a few, there’s scarcely been an initiative within SEMA during the past two decades that Evans hasn’t worked to promote. His tireless efforts to expand SEMA’s partner outreach and his advocacy on behalf of motorized recreation have earned him the admiration of the specialty automotive market worldwide.
Evans, a Chicago native, made a connection with cars at an early age and in a hands-on fashion. A boyhood devotee of Hot Rod magazine, he happened to have an older brother “who was a terrible driver. Every couple of years he’d wreck a car, and we’d have it up on stands in the backyard trying to put it back together. That’s how I started working on cars, and by the time I was 18, I was doing full-on rebuilds and paint jobs. Basically, I learned as I went along and from whatever I could learn from the pages of Hot Rod.”
In the late ’70s, having graduated from college and completed a stint in the U.S. Marines, Evans was ready to “spend some of the money I’d saved in the military on a cross-country motorcycle tour,” but with the economy faring poorly at the time, he reconsidered and soon landed a position as a media planner at Young & Rubicam—the nation’s largest advertising agency at the time.
“That was my first exposure to the agency side of the automotive business,” he said, noting that the experience suggested a more lucrative career path down the road. “When I discovered that the sales guys at the magazines who were pitching us for advertising dollars were making four times more money than I was, I thought it might be a good idea to get into that side of the business.”
Eventually his thoughts turned to Hot Rod, and the company that published it.
As it happened, Petersen Publishing Company had recently launched a new publishing division that included Hot Rod and which was in need of sales personnel, and Evans soon found himself working for the magazine he’d read so faithfully in his youth. He recalled the ’80s at Petersen Publishing Company fondly.
“It was a glorious time to be in the publishing industry,” he said. “The energy level at the place was so high, every day was like a new adventure. The business was growing by leaps and bounds each year, and it was a tremendous honor to work with people like Bob Petersen and [fellow 2017 inductee] GiGi Carleton. Sometimes I just couldn’t believe that I had the good fortune to be working for the same magazine I’d read so many years ago.”
After departing for stints at Condé Nast, Hachette and The Promotion Company (now Family Events) in the ’90s, he returned to the fold at the old Petersen company, which had been sold in his absence and has been known by several names in the years since (E-Map USA, Primedia, Source Interlink Media and, most recently, The Enthusiast Network).
During his last tour of duty, this time as executive vice president and group publisher, he oversaw comprehensive redesigns of some of the most iconic brands in the enthusiast-publishing industry, including Hot Rod, Car Craft, Four Wheeler, and Street Rodder—in all, three dozen titles. In addition, he oversaw the marketing and promotion of some 95 annual specialty projects and events such as the Hot Rod Power Tour and the Amsoil Engine Masters Challenge. He also played a key role in overseeing the transfer of the company’s massive photo archive—dating back to the first issue of Hot Rod in 1948—to the Petersen Automotive Museum, where it could be preserved and made available for research and to the public.
After departing the publishing company, Evans served as executive vice president and chief operating officer at Luken Communications, a national multicast TV network provider with a roster of properties that includes the enthusiast Rev’n network. He is now the director of business development of events at Bonnier Corporation, where he contributes to the company’s entire portfolio of branded enthusiast events, including the popular Family Events series (4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Monster Truck Nationals, Off-Road Expo and more).
Evans’ roots at SEMA go back over three decades, and he still vividly recalls his first SEMA Show in 1984.
“It filled up the entire central hall [of the Las Vegas Convention Center], and I was just blown away by the place and by the idea that such a show could even be put together,” he said. “More than anything, I remember thinking to myself how amazing it was that I was actually getting paid to do this!”
Evans has been awarded myriad honors and accolades for all his contributions to the industry. He is a member of the Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO) Hall of Fame, and he served three terms on ARMO’s select committee. He was named SEMA’s Person of the Year for 2009 and Mentor of the Year by the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network in 2012. He has served three terms on the SEMA Board of Directors. He has served one term as chair-elect and one term as chairman.
Evans has led a number of SEMA outreach initiatives over the years. He was an early champion of the SEMA Political Action Committee (PAC) and has served as chairman of the PAC for 15 years. An activist dating back to his term as student-body president at Valparaiso University, his alma mater, Evans played a key role in the creation of the SEMA Action Network, the online advocacy initiative that keeps millions of auto enthusiasts informed on a daily basis about public policy initiatives that could affect their pastimes and livelihoods.
He has worked extensively with government agencies to preserve access to motorized recreation, most notably on the reclamation of the Bonneville Salt Flats as chairman of the Save the Salt Coalition, and he has been active in expanding SEMA’s youth outreach via programs such as SEMA’s Car Camp and the SEMA Career Fair.
When asked about his induction into the Hall of Fame, Evans was gracious and understated.
“Frankly, I was shocked when the announcement was made,” he said. “To be included alongside people of the caliber of GiGi Carleton and Barry Meguiar, it’s just unbelievable. And looking down the list of names on the Hall of Fame roster going back to the ’60s, I’m struck by just how many people on there are people I followed when I was a kid reading Hot Rod. It’s just an incredible honor—words don’t do it justice.”
While his term as Board chairman has drawn to a close, Evans has no plans to cease working day-to-day on ongoing SEMA initiatives.
“I’m still very much interested in the political and advocacy side of our business,” he said, “and I plan to continue my work with the SEMA PAC, working with government officials on policy matters that affect our members and on anything else where SEMA feels that I could make a positive contribution. Working with SEMA has been one of the joys of my life, and I very much look forward to continuing my relationship with the organization.”